Today I saw a body on a stretcher being loaded into a van. I took it to be from a funeral home because two men in suits were putting it in there.
It was the house next to my mom’s. She called while I was on the way, to warn me that there was an ambulance and 3 police cars next door so that I wouldn’t panic when I got there. It was a good thing she called because I probably would have freaked. She said it was probably something bad.
As it was, I got cold…and nauseous…and a little shaky, because it made me start to think about all the rescue vehicles that must have been outside my house that day. I’m not honestly sure I looked out the window, but the paramedics were there and police. Maybe a firetruck? I’ve always wondered if they came with their sirens on – I don’t remember hearing them. But today I could see what my neighbors saw on the day that JJ died. They also probably knew right away that it was something bad.
There it is…that sick, fearful feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I allow myself to go back to that time and place.
I never saw them carry you out JJ. I don’t remember walking down the hallway from the bedroom, but I do know I was in the kitchen and the police officer said they were going to bring you out and I said I thought I should see you one last time to say goodbye but I didn’t want to look at you again because I was afraid to see your face. He said that if it were him, and I were his wife, he wouldn’t want me to see him like that. And so I said ok. And I remember standing – hiding really – in the corner in the kitchen. And I think someone was there with me. And then you were gone. Your body anyway.
What surprised me was how quiet the stretcher was. I expected to hear it banging and clattering its way out but it was as quiet as death itself. Nobody said a word, no accidental crash into the door frame. I didn’t know they were gone, that it was safe to look around the corner, until someone told me so.
Again today I had to hold myself together for Russell. I couldn’t acknowledge the black hole that opened up a crack inside of my gut – a crack made wider by the memory of that tiny, helpless newborn I had to protect and care for in the middle of such horror.
I didn’t want to remember this today. I never want to remember it. I don’t want to think about what happened at the neighbor’s house or the people who are left behind to try and figure out how to piece their lives back together. I don’t want to think about the stunned disbelief that was with me for so long that I feared it might never go away (yet I also feared that it would go, and I’d be left with the stark inescapable certainty that you were gone).
And yet I did remember it. And I’m ok. I’m not there in that place anymore, I don’t have to go through it again. It is a memory, not reality.
And you showed me three rainbows today, a sign of comfort and confirmation. A promise of even better days ahead.